What examples are there of the destructive nature of love in The Great Gatsby?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The destructive nature of love is most clearly exemplified through the experiences of Jay Gatsby and George Wilson. In the novel, Jay Gatsby corrupts his soul as he transforms himself into a wealthy, upper-class citizen in the hopes of one day winning Daisy's love. Gatsby sacrifices his integrity and morals as he joins the illegal bootlegging business with Meyer Wolfsheim. Gatsby ends up believing that his money can buy him happiness, and he reinvents himself for a shallow woman who doesn't genuinely love him. Towards the end of the novel, Gatsby takes the blame for Myrtle's death and is murdered by George Wilson, who mistakes him as Myrtle's killer. If Gatsby were to never fall in love with Daisy, he would probably not have died a lonely, corrupted man.

George Wilson is another victim of the destructive nature of love. George adores his wife, who is unhappily married and carries on an affair with Tom Buchanan. After learning that his wife is having an affair, George attempts to lock her inside their apartment. When George learns of his wife's death, he is absolutely devastated and attempts to enact revenge by murdering Gatsby, who he thinks is responsible for Myrtle's death. George then takes his own life after he kills Gatsby. Overall, Gatsby and George end up falling in love with superficial, insincere women, who are indirectly responsible for their deaths. Interestingly, Tom Buchanan, Daisy, and Jordan Baker do not become victims of the destructive nature of love because of their callous, insensitive nature.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that an argument can be made that Gatsby's love of his conception of "the American Dream" is fairly destructive.  Gatsby's love of wealth and what it means to be "Gatsby" does not bring any sort of permanent happiness.  It also can be seen as the root of his own death, as his own pursuit of this dream causes him to be easily manipulated into being mistaken for Tom by George.  Along these lines, I think that the supposed notion of love that Gatsby has for Daisy is destructive.  It might be a stretch to call this love, but Gatsby believes it to be.  This is destructive because it is one sided, and never reciprocated.  Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy is both limitless and fruitless, which ends up being a pretty potent combination to spell out his own destruction.  Again, stretching, but the lustful relationship between Myrtle and Tom leads to destruction on many ends.  Myrtle's own relationship with her husband, as well as the self- serving nature of the association ends up becoming quite destructive as the novel progresses.  Such perversions of love, wrought with inauthenticity at its best and personal destruction at its worst help to motivate Nick to return to the Midwest.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The love, or at least the early stages of love, between Nick and Jordan also proves to be very destructive. In the end, on their final phone call, Jordan blames Nick for "throwing [her] over" and Nick acknowledges that he was half in love with her. Jordan lies and says that she's newly engaged to someone else, but it's clear that she is bitter about Nick's treatment of her; Nick, on the other hand, is still mourning the loss of his friend, Jay Gatsby. Jordan does not go to his funeral either; no one but Nick and Mr. Gatz do, and this disgusts Nick almost more than anything else that happens in the book. Moreover, Jordan's "incurable" predilection for lying also seems to bother him, ultimately.

In the end, neither Nick nor Jordan is happy.  Both seem injured, reeling from the collapse of their relationship and yet both somehow able to recognize its toxicity.

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The Great Gatsby

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